It’s been a month now since we lost the home we were living in to a fire, and I keep looking for signs that Violet has been shaken to her core and needs me.
I keep searching for the dashboard lights to pop on, the ones that say the trauma of it all messed her up.
I keep waiting to read the writing on the kitchen wall: Child Psychologist Now!
But, so far, nothing. Nada. Zilch.
I mean, every once in a while I try and connect the fact that she is three, she saw a fire, she got yanked out of her room, out of her home and hasn’t been back since with her giving her little brother a beat-down, but I can never really make it stick. She was rapping on his bald noodle long before the fire. She was looking at him with jealous eyes way before what went down went down.
And so, I’m sort of left standing here in this new place we’ve moved into wondering what I can do to help her. And I have slowly felt myself being stalked by the ghosts of a trillion yesterday dads.
They come in droves, with the same ragged grace of old Deadheads. Friendly souls who’ve been driving around in some sunset desert for a decade now, looking for somewhere to pull over, to score a plate of rice and beans in exchange for a smile or two.
An all the while, as these old hippies are pulling up outside the house: parking their dinosaur VWs and their beat-up BMWs on the lawn/out on the winter grass, and cramming into the house here: squishing themselves all over and in between a thousand comatose stiffs, balancing themselves there on the precipice of wilting particle board bookshelves, uptown ledge pigeons all looking down at the same tired bus: all that while, I’ve been staring hard out of the corner of my eye, stealing little glances at Violet, trying to gauge the damage
But, I know there might be nothing to worry about now.
I am starting to feel like it was me who got rattled by the chaos of the fire, and not the kid.
Violet seems resilient, wired like any three-year old might be. She seems hellbent on making sure her little brother doesn’t dare pick up her rubber crab or her anything else in her plastic kingdom. She doesn’t seem upset or worried by any ghosts of her own.
And I don’t know who to thank for that, really. Or even how.
But, it’s getting pretty awesome up in here now. It’s getting pretty awesome watching these kids pick themselves up and pound the dust off their little bodies. Crawling out from under another cartoon anvil dropped square on top of their heads, they stand back up in the middle of the trail/look up at the high cliffs above/and appear to scratch their tiny scalps with a yawn.
Meanwhile, I’m being observed, watched hard like a heart attack in the mall parking lot. I’m doing my little tap dance show in front of a gallery of ghosts; harmless ghouls who, long ago, figured it all out for themselves.
“Dude! Duuuuuuuude!,” they whisper through the ether. “Psssst! Duuuuude!”
I stop staring at Violet for a second. I stop hoping she’s okay.
I look over at them. What do I say? What do they want?
“Wha?,” I say.
The hot wind blows. A crow calls from on top of a dried cow skull. There is a long moment of dripping honey.
And then…that whisper.
“Dude, it’s cool man! Be cool! Get it together.”
This morning, I wake up and they’re gone in the night.
And just like that, yesterday’s fears are just another hockey arena parking lot sitting silent at dawn.
Just another spaceship parked out in a cornfield somewhere in the world.